We are not beach people. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Add to that the prohibitive rates for less than appealing hotel rooms and we almost cut Rio de Janeiro out of our vacation plans, the main focus of which were Peru and Argentina. But with flights into South America routed via Sao Paulo, we decided to allot a couple of days to Rio to recuperate from the (26 hour) long flight, not really expecting to be wowed by the city.
The Cidade Maravilhosa stole our hearts.
We had been warned about muggings and street crime. But we never felt unsafe anywhere. Not in the gritty side streets of Santa Teresa nor while walking through Lapa at night. That didn’t mean danger didn’t exist. So we followed all the usual precautions…no bling jewellery or watches, very little cash and even a cheap spare camera in the evenings.
The beaches were grand of course. As was the Cristo Redentor. But we loved Santa Teresa, the beautiful inland neighbourhood we chose to stay in, faintly reminiscent of old Goa (a Portuguese colony in India).
-As also Oscar Niemeyer’s Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Niterói, our walk through Ipanema upto Lagoa and onto Parque Lage, the Sunday feria, the food – oh the food! – the divine caipirinhas, the samba at Rio Scenerium, and the bossa nova CD’s we picked up at Toca de Vinicius.
Most of all we loved the spectacular natural landscape of this beautiful city. Every vantage point, and there were many, afforded breathtaking vistas of hills and valleys and fabulous beaches juxtaposed with densely packed pockets of urban construction that somehow blended seamlessly into that undulating terrain.
Rio de Janeiro stole our hearts.